Discourse Forum maintenance costs

There are discussion platforms that ask for donations, such as Diaspora instaces, but these are completely volunteer run forums that don’t make money in any other way and need to cover the maintenance costs. An official forum of a commercial product that would ask for (even just voluntary) donations at best wouldn’t look very good, I think that could even hurt the product, it looks as if you’re ripping any extra dollar off of people you already sold something to (even if that’s not the case of course), it’s just not a good image. At best I can see something like a premium membership, but again this would need to be carefully done as to not discriminate against normal members and customers. Could be something like extra emotes, avatars, titles, forums themes, some special area like the reddit gold lounge etc.


It’s uncommon these days because most people rely on advertising for keeping servers running, but it used to be quite a lot more common before online advertising became really popular.

There are still a few forums that ask for donations. I did a quick search and found three. One of the three (about FIAT cars) has been around since 2002 (and certainly looks like something from 2002). The others were about gun ownership and christianity. (Which sounds like the punchline to a bad joke. :P)

It took me a bit of digging, but after a while I finally found an example of a forum that has a yearly/periodic donation drive. (As far as I can tell, it’s a forum about flight simulation games. The actual forum is here.) It does accept donations all year round, but the mechanism for donating is very well hidden.

It would be quite easy to create an “I Donated” badge, and theoretically it should be possible to have it awarded automatically after a donation.

I think it would be best to have only one tier though, which is awarded regardless of amount, otherwise it could encourage people to try to spend more to get a better badge. Unless the lower bound for the top tier was something very low (e.g. €3-5), I suppose that could work?

It makes sense to allow it to be awarded more than once though.
That way it still encourages continued support, but doesn’t reflect how much was donated each time.

One other idea while I think of it…

A few years ago there was a special edition Arduboy which featured the names of forum members on the board, and more recently the FX chip incorporated users’ logos onto the board.

Thinking about this made me realise that one day, if there’s ever another revision of the Pokitto board, it might be possible to do the same for the Pokitto, but instead of just distributing the board space in some unorganised fashion, the board space could be sold/auctioned, so people who pledge money can have their name/logo enshrined on an area of the board.

Sort of like selling ad space, but it’s just advertising members of the userbase instead.


One more thing (sorry), this time in regards to saving disk space.
@jonne, you may want to take note of this.

Often .webms are smaller than .gifs.

As an example, I just grabbed a copy of some of the GIFs @spinal and @jonne just uploaded and ran them through ffmpeg with ffmpeg -i image.gif image.webm.

Image Before After Difference
Joe 2 571 KB 107 KB -464 KB
Lines 29 KB 23 KB -6 KB
Kong II 98 KB 227 KB +129 KB
Turbo Frog Seducer 534 KB 202 KB -332 KB
Prelude to a Dream 2,153 KB 1009 KB -1,144 KB
Prelude to a Dream 7,738 KB 2,982 KB -4,756 KB
Canabalto 295 KB 128 KB -167 KB
Lode Runner 98 KB 58 KB -40 KB
Karateka 741 KB 100 KB -641 KB

As you can see, sometimes the .webm ends up being larger for whatever reason, but the vast majority of times it’s moderately to drastically superior, particularly with larger .gifs.

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This is quite significant space saving if the quality is about the same !

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I don’t know if it’s definitely lossless, but I certainly can’t see any notable artefacts.
The quality is almost certainly tunable.

I’d upload an example as proof, but I’m concerned that might be a bit counter-productive.

Ok, I am kind of ready / sort of ready to comment

We started from “would you pay for a Pokitto game?”

Lots of people said “no, I would not pay for a Pokitto game”

Ok. And I believe that. Because when Neo Retro game asked for a donation, I think I was the only one who donated. When I made Rayne the Rogue mugs and stuff, about 2 people bought those. I used 60 usd for the music of Pysconian, tried to make it as good as possible - @torbuntu was the only one who donated 5$.

Our magazines have been top-notch, still most of the regulars here did not buy them.

When I said “the real dilemma is that just running a forum like this costs money” what I mean is that people have gotten so accustomed to getting things for free, that they can only see the issue from their own perspective. Ok, so you can download and play Apex or Fortnite for free. Great. But what has that got to do with a project like Pokitto? Or someones Pokitto game. Absolutely nothing.

What I am talking about here is revenue streams. I sell you a Pokitto. You pay 49€ for it. For that you get a forum for free for eternity … Its not going to work long term.

This is not a question of being greedy. Its a question of laws of nature. Energy can not be extracted for free. It has to come from somewhere.

Lets look at the issue of paying for Pokitto games again. Ok, so you do not want to monetarily contribute to such projects. Fine.

How then can something be sustainable long term?

Please understand that I am not looking for a fight here. I am just giving my perspective from the point of view of someone, who makes the whole backend run - as an honest to god, tax paying company.

I was not originally even asking for money for Pokitto. The question was “would you pay money for a Pokitto game” and if it was a game like Joe2 that is looking incredible already and has taken countless hours my answer would be yes. IMHO people who categorically say no are not appreciating what they get and don’t think of the whole picture. Even a token contribution to the game dev is something. I know this from experience. It is more a gesture than real reimbursement.

Now we can get back to discussing the forum upkeep costs.

Edit: I have only myself to blame for everything. It was me who did not think about revenue streams before the Kickstarter. But I am not the only one. This is exactly the reason why Aurelien ran into problems with Gamebuino Meta.

Edit 2: i went off topic again, this time in this thread, sorry. In my mind, all of these things are interconnected


That’s not completely fair, you’re missing one big factor in the equation.
How many Pokitto have been sold thanks to the forum? Nothing is free, but the profit that came from the forum is a real thing.
It’s like Facebook would close for the server bill because someone forget to add advertise revenue in the annual balance.


Valid point. In fact, that is a big reason why Pokitto is still alive.


I’d be interested to know how many Pokitto owners do not visit the forum, there seems to be only a few of us here regularly.


Surely that’s the point of this thread?
To investigate all the options and weigh up what’s more likely to be successful.

Let’s consider it hypothetically for a moment…

Let’s pretend I decided to make a Pokitto game, and by some miracle I actually finished it.
Then I decided to put it up on somewhere like Itch, and it’s set up to be ‘pay what you want’.
By some other miracle, a few people buy it, I get €10 (about £8.56). I am now €10 richer.
I spend that money on household bills. All is well.

Except, none of that money went towards keeping the forum running. The forum wasn’t anywhere in that equation.
This is why I say the two issues are separate matters. The money is flowing in a different direction.

Unless Pokitto Oy is taking a cut from game sales (like Steam does), then selling games does not keep the forum running.

So let’s consider the situation again, but this time Pokitto Oy takes a cut. Let’s say it’s a 30% cut (the industry standard in 2019).

I make a game, blah blah blah…
I get €10, but Pokitto Oy takes €3, so actually I get €7 and spend it on pasta and coffee.
Congratulations, that’s 3/34ths of the monthly target, only €31 to go.

But unfortunately it’s not that simple, because there’s a lot of other things to consider:

  • How many sales would there need to be each month to keep the forum running?
  • Would we have enough users buying games to reach those targets?
  • What happens when there’s a dry spell with no new games being released?
  • Will old titles still bring in money several weeks down the line?
  • What if 99% of users don’t donate when prompted?
  • What percentage cut would Pokitto Oy realistically need to take for this model to be sustainable?
  • What if users don’t actually want to sell their games and would rather give them away for free?

That’s not to say other options won’t have their flaws, there’s no silver bullet, but to me this seems like one of the riskier options, particularly based on what we know about the current userbase’s behaviour. I.e. nearly half of people saying they wouldn’t pay for games, and half again not wanting to sell their games.

The thing is, most of us are game/software creators, so we’re not just thinking about it from the view of the player, we’re also thinking about how we feel about the games/tools we create, and a decent percentage of us don’t care about the money, we just want to make the world dance games that people enjoy.

The enjoyment taken from creating a game and seeing other people enjoy it is far rarer and more valuable than mere money, and the forum provides the platform for that exchange, so it is only natural that people will want to keep the forum ticking over, even if they don’t want to sell their games.

It is not a paradox to want to help financially support the forum and to not want to accept money for one’s creations. It presents a problem, but what are programmers if not problem solvers?

Actually I don’t think it has to do with webm particularly, though it might. I just ran a short 10-second GIF (3.5MB) through EZGif’s optimize settings and told it to compress with a lossy compression and it reduced it down to about 100Kb without any noticeable difference between the two.

So if a GIF is rather large we can try running it through EZGif or convert it to WebM format to save some space.

PS: I only ever post a video directly to the forum if the video is less than 1Mb in size, otherwise I upload it to youtube and embed it. If @jonne would prefer that all videos (even ~200KB one) be embedded then I can do that as well.

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If you’ve got a copy of ffmpeg, have a go at converting that GIF to WebM, you might be surprised.
Or if you don’t have ffmpeg, I’d be happy to have a go and tell you what the result is.

WebM is actually a container format (based on Matroska) which can contain video in either VP8, VP9 or AV1 formats. VP9 at least is quite a sophisticated and efficient encoding format which supports lossless compression.

Bear in mind that GIF was invented in 1987 and hasn’t been updated since 1989, whereas WebM was created in 2013 and last updated in 2019. Humanity has learnt a lot since the 80s.

Looking into it, the problem with EZGIF is that it seems it’s an online-only GUI tool.

I suggested pngcrush and ffmpeg precisely because they’re local command line tools, which means they could be run automatically on the server without relying too much on users to be conscientious about what they’re uploading.

Perhaps there’s a GIF equivalent of pngcrush, or maybe ffmpeg could be relied upon to reduce GIF sizes?

Actually ffmpeg is what I’m using to convert a screen-recorded MP4 to GIF. Problem I see with WebM is you wouldn’t want WebM files to automatically play while browsing because they can contain audio whereas GIF is strictly video. The benefit for the games page GIFs to be automatically playing is it gives the page more life and helps attract the user’s attention to a specific game.

At this point i feel the urge to comment again.
I really did my best to support pokitto all the way. I really did my best to support indie games and small game and hardware projects (browse through my yt and you will see only the top of the iceberg). I regularly donate money to small projects, not getting anything back from it, just to be supportive because i believe in it.
I also have to pay bills, especially for my house and my daughter who will eventuality start studying this year.
Apart from that i also donate regularly to at least two charities a month. We just had a devastating flood catastrophe, my whole workplace is destroyed and i don’t know how to go on regarding my work in two weeks from here.
Of course i donated some money for those who lost everything in the flood.
I keep buying merch, buying games i already got for free, only to buy additional physical releases. I really spent a lot of money not only for having fun with my gaming hobby but to support people and honor their work. I got scamned big with crowdfunding projects, so i never backed anything again.
I just can’t support everything though and a forum is just a thing i won’t spent money for. A lot of discussion and information went into discord anyway, so as i don’t have the time to hang around there for hours i certainly might miss things.
If pokitto is a thing to reach a bigger audience then it should be:

  • Easily available
  • Should need some more marketing (especially on social media)
  • should appeal not only to developers, but to gamers like me (and yes, as mentioned before gamers like special editions and physical releases, look how it’s done with homebrew releases for nes or THEC64, people keep buying stuff although it is already downloadable for free).
  • Bring some special pokitto editions maybe with a metal shell with a gamedisk in a nice package and a manual and make a big twitter story about it.
  • Sidenote: Importing goods and games is getting more and more complicated and very expensive in europe and especially in germany, postage and shipment even for small goods easily add 20-30 € to something you buy, so people don’t pull the trigger if they are not really into it
    Sorry for the long explanation, i do love pokitto and the whole idea behind it, but this is something i just had to say.

I do not mind the critique at all.

In fact I think it is pretty cool that we can have a conversation at this level and nobody gets super-offended. In today’s world it is pretty rare.

I want to clarify 2 things:

  1. I have not made any system for donating to Pokitto. So in that sense it has not even been possible to “support” in such a way

  2. When I say “people have gotten so used to getting things for free” I am not talking about Pokitto community in particular. I am getting to be a grumpy old guy at times, I have 4 kids and I work in product dev. What I am talking about is a larger problem of “free” as in a) exports that were driven by political actions (how do you think free airmail shipping for 1€ item from far east was possible?) b) games industry turning into a copy-paste in-game advertizing/purchases crapshoot (anyone remember things like LucasArts? Looking Glass? MicroProse?) c) … ah, lets stop here. I could have given examples from my own line of work but I think I am going too far.

So thank you @Zockeromi for your thoughts, I agree with most/all of them. I will try to do something about the issues.


Thanks for understanding. It’s no criticism to “moan” about anything here (if this was the case i wouldn’t stil be here :laughing:).
It’s just my point of view and my two cents from the gamer’s perspective.
I am among the biggest pokitto fans among gamers for sure (the same goes for RetroRob i think).


Now I regret not asking if you were affected.

Whenever there’s been a major disaster before and I’ve asked people if they’re alright, I’ve been told that it hasn’t affected them, so after a while I felt a bit silly for asking.

Never apologise for a long explanation.
It shows you care, and it shows that you’re engaged with what’s going on.

This raises some important questions.

What does the Pokitto want to be?
What is the end goal?

I get the impression most of us have different opinions about what the Pokitto is and what it should be.

This is another reason I prefer the forum.
It’s relatively easy to catch up on what’s been said, and it’s easy to know what you haven’t read yet.

When the conversation is divided between two platforms, it creates a two-tier system, and those of us who don’t or won’t use Discord are left in the dark about what gets discussed there. That most likely includes outside visitors who might be thinking about joining the forum.

This is the one thing I can’t agree with you on.

To me, without the forum the Pokitto loses a lot of its appeal.
The forum is how developers share knowledge with each other, it’s how games are announced and it’s how people give feedback about games.

I can imagine other arrangements that might achieve the same effect, but none that gather those things together in the same centralised way that a forum does.

If the forum really had to die, the best (‘free’) alternative I can think of is Reddit because it’s the only thing that comes close to having the same features, but I don’t think it would feel quite the same.

Don’t even get me started. I wouldn’t touch Fortnite with a barge pole, and I had to look up what Apex Legends is.

One of the reasons I like Steam is because it gives me chance to buy and experience some of those old games from the golden age of video games that I otherwise might not get chance to experience. Myst & Riven, Monkey Island, Portal.

I see your point, though personally I don’t think it’s that big a deal to have already-animating images. I think still images can be just as attention-drawing, and then videos are a good supplement when you’ve already caught people’s attention.

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I am very sorry to hear that you have suffered from the flood. I hope everything will get normal as soon as possible.

It is very good to hear direct and honest opinions from someone who really loves Pokitto and the community around it.

I also think having special or improved versions of Pokitto HW would be desirable for many people, much like Arduventure and FX versions of Arduboy.


I am ok (we prepared for evacuation, but had unbelievable luck!) - thank you for asking, my workplace is totally destroyed though, will look to help there tomorrow.

I don’t think the forum is useless (far from it), but thought there might be other options, i am not sure what might be the best for all of us…

I exactly wanted to raise the question what pokitto wants to be and what people may expect from it - you got me totally right there!


Forum costs now down to 27-30 USD per month

… I arranged the backups to be a bit more sensible. There were too many concurrent backups.